and the snow (crystalline) makes it shine
and the rain makes it smell more like hair
and the wind proves that everything we do can be undone
and the sun burns light into it (the operative word being
and the leaves that have died
and been reborn as memento mori entangle themselves in it
and crumble into dust as I take out my comb
— teeth and all —
and stare at it, wondering how
the clouds get so close to earth that they’re fog
and my hair and I walk sideways
I’d offer you everything but the barometer’s falling
“So I get this word-a-day thing emailed to me every day by the Oxford English Dictionary and…”
“I hate the way the Oxford English Dictionary controls all the words. It’s elitist. They’re profiteering off the English language. Somebody has to challenge their power.”
“We could storm the ramparts of their headquarters and ride triumphantly away with a new vocabulary.”
“It’s not that easy. They control the meanings of the words ‘ramparts’ and ‘storm,’ so our options are limited.”
the war is just
with thanks to Brad for half of the dialogue and most of the humor
In the bare branches of the lilac, clusters of oak leaves are lodged like lost mittens.
a snowy morning arranging for its own meaning
In other news:
A ton of people have sent me polar vortex poems so far, which is great because it’s still so cold here that poetry is basically the only thing keeping me sane. You can send me any you’ve got till tomorrow morning. I’ll post them over the weekend.
snow falls on the cold frame distant stars
(Feb. 6: frame)
lake ice growing thinner
I count my money
(Feb. 9: ice)
I don’t have time to do NaHaiWriMo this month, so I’m doing it. There is something about that innocent little prompt that has the mysterious power to jar me out of writer’s block, even if temporarily. And once I’ve written my one haiku for the day I feel absolved of all guilt for not writing for another 24 hours, which I believe actually saves me time in the end.
Michael Dylan Welch is setting the prompts again this year (this whole thing was his idea) and they’re alphabetical this time (a is for apple, you know the drill). That’s kind of satisfying too, especially to organization freaks like me.
This is all I have right now that I can stand to show people. I’ll try to post another update later in the month.
standing at one point
of a triangle
(I wrote this last August at Haiku North America during Eve Luckring’s amazing workshop on “Video Renku: Link and Shift in Visual Language.” I was responding to a visual prompt of a photograph that depicted, as far as I can remember, three bath products lined up on a shelf in a chilly-looking tiled bathroom. [It’s not as prosaic as it sounds. It was art.] We were supposed to be responding not to the content — the subject — of the photo but to its structure, visual elements like patterns and colors and numbers of objects. We were supposed to be “linking” our poem to the photograph in the sometimes ineffable way that two verses in a renku are linked.
I really, really have to do that exercise again. I’ve been saying that for six months now. Nag me until I actually do it.)
the footprints of the neighbors
we’ve never seen
So there’s a calendar that has haiku on it. Maybe there’s more than one. The one I know about is published by Snapshot Press and you can find out about it here. It looks really cool but I haven’t actually seen it yet. I plan to order one or two soon though because it contains this haiku of mine. I’ve posted it here before but what the heck. The first snow will probably be showing up sometime soon around here, so it’s timely. Also, I wanted to let you know about the whole calendar thing well in advance of Christmas so you can order some for all the people you normally give fruitcake to. In the interests of world peace and all that.
Incidentally, I based this very loosely on this haiku by Basho:
秋深き 隣は何を する人ぞ
aki fukaki tonari wa nani wo suru hito zo
how does he live, I wonder?
— Basho, tr. R.H. Blyth
(And how I have managed to go so long without finding the Classical Japanese Database from which the transcription and translation above are taken, I have absolutely no idea. Kudos to Carl Johnson for putting this amazing resource together.)
If you follow the link above to the page where this haiga appears in Notes from the Gean, it will say that the tanka is by me and the photo is by Aubrie Cox, but this is not really accurate. The credits at the bottom right of the tanka here are accurate and much more interesting.
Back in January after I’d been obsessively writing haiku about snow for a month or two and had lost all perspective on whether any of it was any good, I sent a bunch of snow haiku to Aubrie for her editing expertise (which is considerable). She gave me some good feedback on a lot of the haiku, several of which have been published now. Then she commented that the haiku that began “ninth snow” might work as a tanka…and added the two lines above to it. And then she went and took a great picture and made a haiga out of it.
Yeah. I know. It’s a lot better now.
And it’s getting to be really hot around here now…so it’s nice to have snow poetry back around to cool me off.
and the black earth beneath:
the idea of dying
Melissa Allen, haiku; Jay Otto, photography
the chill of
Modern Haiku 42:2, Summer 2011
The main post office on Gorky Street in Moscow. A line of squat beige phones — a line of people in thick coats to their ankles standing beside them. Staring at them like half-boiled pots, waiting for them to ring. Waiting to hear the voice of someone from the other side of the Iron Curtain.
You’ve filled in the required forms. When do you want to talk? Whom do you want to talk to? For how long would you like this conversation to continue? Be careful: they’ll give you exactly the amount of time you ask for, no more and no less. But the phones are ringing, your mind is buzzing, you can only make awkward, half-thought-through calculations.
Not long after our phones ring and we lift the receivers to our ears like stones, we realize we answered all the questions wrong. The conversations should have been earlier or later, longer or shorter. The people we are talking to are not people we really know. We’ve forgotten the languages they’re speaking. We live in different countries for what we now know is forever, though we meant it to be temporary. “Wait —” we say. “It’s about to end —”
The phone makes a noise that means my life has returned to me. Everything goes silent until it’s the next person’s turn. Down the line, feet shuffle, stirring the hems of coats.
melting snow —
of what I meant to say
(Chrysanthemum 9, April 2011)
we argue about which way
the snow is falling
First published in The Mainichi Daily News, Feb. 22, 2011
Husband: But our anniversary is in August. And why would we argue about anything so stupid?
Me: No, no, dear, I meant the other guy I’ve been married to for twenty years.
you bake me a sweet cake
in a sugarless country
skiing in Gorky Park—
where we’re going
babushkas chiding us
for our warmth
Happy birthday, honey.